There's no shortage of info out there on how to pick a degree for maximizing income. Whether it's STEM, economics or medical, there's a lot of research about what you can study for a high-earning career.
For good reason, too; as student debt skyrockets and wages stagnate, Millennial students need to think about their bottom line.
Money, as they say, isn't everything though. It's quite a lot, no one's happy when they can't make their rent, but even the richest professions are often pretty unhappy. Just take a look, for example, at the statistics about big firm lawyers who are some of the most well compensated and miserable professionals working today.
So maybe income isn't the only thing to consider when it comes time to picking your degree. Job satisfaction matters quite a lot, too, and here are ten degrees for graduates who tend to really like what they do for a living.
O.K., right off the bat dentist is a weird entry on this list. You see, they're one of the number one careers for suicidal practitioners and have been for rather a long time. That's not news.
We're just going to own that.
Here's the thing, though: once you get past those statistics, dentists are happy. Like, really, really happy. No, we don't understand the contradiction either, but this job brings a combination of stability, work/life balance, high personal interaction, great employment rates and high pay. Life as a dentist is so great that CNBC once rated it the "Best Job in America."
Some nurses love their jobs. Some nurses hate their jobs. So why does a nursing degree make this list?
Because a good nursing job can be a great nursing job.
When nurses complain about their jobs, their issues generally have to do with workplace-specific problems such as burnout, patient load and hours. That's not to say that these aren't real or widespread problems, but they're also reparable. Finding the right employer can fix these issues. You can't fix the job itself that easily, and that's where a nursing degree settles in for the win: despite complaints about their job conditions, nurses tend to love what they actually do for a living.
Students at big sports schools will recognize kinesiology as the "joke major" that football and basketball players take so they can have more time for practice.
Physical therapy brings a lot to the table. Like nurses and dentists, physical therapists work with people a lot, letting practitioners escape the dreaded "alone in a room with a computer" plague that makes so many modern jobs a miserable slog. They also make a solid living, with median salaries at $84,000.
All in all? A good choice.
Our first entry away from medicine, but teachers share a lot in common with nurses when it comes to job satisfaction.
First and foremost, there's much to be said about conditions making teachers unhappy. Low pay, long hours, abusive demands by non-unionized states, awful conditions imposed where the union operates… It's a lot.
Like nurses, however, these issues all have to do with workplace conditions. That's not to say they're small problems, they can make or break someone's decision to stay in a career, but when teachers find a school system they like… Well, they tend to love their jobs.
Yes, Mrs. Crabapple teaches in plenty of classrooms across the country, but everyone has met that teacher who'd never give it up for anything.
Psychologists get to help people.
There's much to be said about this field, for which we'll cheat and also include psychiatrist. (The difference is that a psychologist acts as a therapist, while a psychiatrist also has a medical degree.) It often comes with excellent hours and self-employment. It usually includes pretty great money. It's a respected profession.
All true, and all important. But mostly: never underestimate the power of making a difference, or how happy that can make someone.
Nope, nope, nope, not Goldman Sachs (GS) or JPMorgan (JPM) investment banker types. The big money masters of the universe? Chalk them up with big firm lawyers on the list of "rich but miserable" types.
Climb down the ladder, though, and you find some really happy people working in the financial services sector. Folks who sell financial products, for example, tend to have a great balance of pay and hours. Financial advisors, too, tend to love their jobs and the personal interaction that comes with it.
So, by all means, study finance. Just… go prepared to take a pay cut right off the bat.
Writers tend to be pretty happy people.
Now, unlike every other item on this list, this entry comes with a pretty whopping caveat: you have to get paying work as a writer. As with artists, this is an oversaturated field with a few big winners and a whole of people hoping to break in.
Unlike artists, however, there are a surprising number of opportunities to write for a living these days. Meanwhile writers (and especially authors) have an almost unmatched degree of control over their own lives. From living as digital nomads to simply deciding when and how they'll work on any given Tuesday, this is a field for someone who dreads wearing a suit but doesn't mind working 12 hours a day.
Priests love their jobs.
A list like this depends as much on the reader as the statistics, because happiness… well, not to lean on clichés, but happiness really is in the eye of the beholder. We can tell you what jobs pay the most and what jobs hire most easily, those statistics don't change from one person to another.
What it will take for you to love that job, though, that's as much about what you bring to the table as anything else.
For someone who brings faith, conviction and a deep love of helping the least of us, don't make things more complicated than they need to be. There's an entire department dedicated to helping you find your path in life.
Now let's talk about almost the exact opposite type of person: someone who wants to make a bunch of money while getting out into the world. He should probably take a visit to the geology or engineering departments, because mineral and petroleum engineering may be for them.
First and foremost, we should dispense with the money: you'll make a lot of it. (Who'd have thought oil would be a lucrative field?)
Then there's the lifestyle. Some folks in this field work in a standard office environment, but the people who get hands-on tend to work out in the field. They clock in their workday on deep-sea rigs, in the fields of North Dakota and anywhere else that minerals come up out of the Earth. Many of us may read that as "bad Netflix connection," but the right candidate sees "high paying adventure."
Like with the clergy, don't overthink it. If that's your gut reaction, go with it.
Developers can do great these days.
There's a lot to be said for getting a degree in computer programming and development, but here's the central benefit: flexibility. There's almost no degree that will lay more out on the table. Virtually every industry needs developers these days, and they can work on almost anything. Developers work on Wall Street and from their laptop in a global nomad's bungalow. They work with presidents and aid workers alike.
If anything goes wrong, hiring is through the roof for qualified developers.
This is a degree for the student who wants to do everything or may not know what she wants to do, and the happiness? Well, you've got endless opportunities to work that out.